Was idly discussing the subject of accents with Erin the other day and bemoaning my inability to master an American accent that I can turn on at will to avoid lack of comprehension in certain contexts.

Erin: “Never mind, honey.”
Me: “But I want to fit in!”
Erin: “Says the truck-driving, cowboy-boot-wearing, cowboy-hat-wearing, baseball-obsessed gun owner! I don’t think you need to worry about fitting in.”

She may have a point.

The train approaches the station

After the visa interview we spent a couple of weeks getting increasingly agitated and irritated at the delay, since it was the first thing that had not gone smoothly or had been outside of our control or the normal procedure. Then last week I got the email from the Embassy requesting my passport, which was collected the following morning. On Tuesday this week I got a text from the courier informing me that my US Embassy item was scheduled for delivery the following day, October 5.

First thing in the morning, the courier arrived. And there is the package was my passport, containing the Holy Grail of travel documents: an IR1 Immigrant Visa for the United States of America. When I use it at my port of entry, I will be a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States. I am officially a new U.S. immigrant.

The whole process from mailing the I-130 to receiving my visa took nine days shy of eight months. I really cannot complain. Compared with the 11 days it took to get Erin her UK spouse visa (equivalent to a CR1) this took forever, but everyone knows that the wheels of American bureaucracy turn very slowly. We had only one minor hiccup in the process with the delay caused by the missing form at the Embassy which probably only really delayed the issue by maybe 10 days. Other than that we were able to navigate a notoriously complicated, slow and bureaucratic process essentially unaided – we did not need an immigration lawyer or other professional assistance – we got there by reading and following the instructions on the US Embassy London website and it all took less than than the “at least ten months” the Embassy cautions you to allow.

And of course I am hugely thankful that I fall in the category of family-based applicants. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who have to wait years or even decades for their applications to inch forward.

Now all we have to do is sort out the logistics of moving to Santa Cruz!

Passport requests

I received an email this morning from the Immigrant Visa Unit at the US Embassy:

Dear Mr. SURNAME, Firstname

Further administrative processing may be necessary. To help avoid further administrative processing please submit your passport as soon as possible. Please contact our courier service on [number] to collect your passport and deliver your issued visa.


London, IV

Obviously, I called the courier service immediately to arrange collection. They are collecting my passport tomorrow morning. Almost there!

Interview, schminterview

So, here’s the story of our visit to the US Embassy yesterday for the visa interview, which did not go as I was either expecting or hoping. There are lite and full-fat versions.

Lite version
Went to Embassy.  Paid fees.  Handed over documents.  Had to complete new DS-230 part I because they did not have the one we sent over 2 months ago.  Told that “some administrative work” (unspecified) needs to be done.  Passport not retained, will be requested when said work is done.  Visa approval not yet granted.  More waiting.

Full-fat version
We set off early for London, got parked in Hammersmith and arrived at the Embassy around 45 minutes before the 8:30 appointment time.  As my sponsor Erin was granted access without fuss.  Security is airport-style (minus the full-body scanners) and was painless as the queue was very short at that time.  At reception I showed my appointment letter and was given a ticket number then we took seats in the waiting room.  After a while and around the actual appointment time, my number came up and we went to the relevant window.

The lady went and got a fat file, which turned out to be for someone else, so she went off to get the right one, which was much thinner.  The first thing she did was send me off to the cashier to pay the fees, which total $404.  I returned to give her the receipts and she had me provide fingerprint  scans.  I was given a DS-230 to fill in; she told us that they did not have these forms.  I was surprised and irked at this; we sent the completed DS-230 part I at the beginning of July a few days after receiving the I-130 approval notice.  We have no idea whether they never received this, received it and lost it before processing or received it, processed it and then lost it.  Either way, I had to fill out a new one.  This is really tedious because it asks for quite a lot of biographic detail and takes time.

While I was working on this Erin handed over the other required documents and answered a few questions.  The lady asked me to go and take a seat while I finished the DS-230 part I and return to the window afterwards.  I did so a few minutes later, but had to wait 20 minutes or so while she dealt with a group of three people.  She then took the newly completed part I and the part II we had brought with us and gave me a courier form with my ticket number and told me to wait to be called again.

After a further of 20-30 minutes my number was called and we went to a different window for part 2 of the interview.  Oddly enough, this was first time we dealt with an American – everyone else thus far had been English, apart from a Polish security guy outside the building.  The lady had me verify my identity by scanning my fingerprints, then asked me to hold up my right hand and swear that everything I said was the truth.  However she then didn’t ask us any questions other when we were planning on travelling.  She had me sign the DS-230 part II (which must be done in the presence of a consular officer) and confirmed that she had possession of the documents we supplied earlier and everything looked fine.  She was happy with Erin’s printed emails on her application for a job with her company’s San Jose office.

She then told us that “we need to do some administrative work” and would therefore not retain my passport at this stage, but contact me when this work was done and have courier it to them.  The visa would then be entered into my passport and returned to me.  She declined to comment on what was causing the delay or admin work, but we are assuming it is processing of the new DS-230 part I.  She was unable to tell us how long this would take; she seemed to think it would be a couple of weeks but was unwilling to confirm this.  I assume that I was visibly disappointed with this news because she went on to tell us not to worry about it and that it all looked good.

I then asked her a couple of questions that I wanted to clarify regarding whether I would be able to travel back and forth to the US on the visa whilst awaiting the arrival of my proper green card.  She explained that my visa will act as a temporary green card and I will be a legal permanent resident of the United States, therefore I can travel back and forth as I please (providing of course that I don’t stay outside of the US for more than one year).  She also clarified that my green card and Social Security number/card will not be issued until I first enter the US on the visa, for the obvious reason that if for any reason the visa remains unused they do not want spare SSNs floating around.  She was unable to say how long the proper green card would take to arrive; she said she had heard of them taking anywhere from six weeks to six months.  Regarding the issuing of my social security number, she said this was best discussed with the immigration officer at my port of entry.

Her general demeanour was friendly, helpful and reassuring.  She did not seem to think that the “administrative work” presented a problem, certainly she did not give any indication that there was any cause for concern, rather the opposite.  So although we left the Embassy with a distinct feeling of anticlimax because we did not receive a decision as we were expecting, we still made progress and we hope it’s merely going to take a couple of weeks extra.  Fingers remain crossed.

On the home straight

One way or another, the end is in sight. I received an email from the US Embassy today notifying me that they had sent a letter confirming that they have scheduled an appointment for my visa interview at the Embassy on September 13 at 8.30am. That means setting off for London pretty early that morning, as there is obviously a serious security process to get through before being admitted to the Embassy. The early start is not a surprise; I was expecting as much. Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes both smoothly and successfully!

Paperwork irritations

I called the Embassy’s visa information line today to check that they had received all the paperwork for my case. They had not, to my considerable irritation. They have everything we have sent them, but they have not yet received the results of my medical examination, which they should receive within five days of the exam. Since I attended this 13 days ago the results should be with them by now. There would have been six or seven days’ delay because I did not have my police certificate at the time. However, I received that two days after the exam and sent the doctors a copy by post the same day and then followed up with an emailed copy when they said they hadn’t received the photocopy. As they confirmed receipt of that the results should be with the Embassy by now. I was advised to email the Embassy direct to request an update, which I have done.

Back to waiting

I received my police clearance certificate on Thursday.  It was clear, somewhat to my surprise; I previously had two endorsements on my driving licence for speeding offences in 2002 and 2003 and was expecting them to appear on my record, but they do not. So I got Erin to make a photocopy of the certificate and I sent it to the Embassy-appointed doctors where I underwent my medical examination on Tuesday, as required.

Since the police certificate was essentially the last document we were waiting for, I also sent the DS-2001 form, Notification of Applicant Readiness, to the US Embassy, which is the form used to notify the Immigrant Visa Branch that we are ready for a visa interview. There are some loose ends to tie up on Erin’s I-864 before interview, but we have plenty of time to take care of them in the many weeks we will have before the interview date.

It’s difficult to tell how long we’ll have to wait for an interview date. The Embassy website says this:

Approximately one month before your scheduled interview appointment with a consular officer, you will receive an appointment letter containing the date and time of your visa interview.

It also says this:

Immediate Relative Category:
In general, applicants registered in the immediate relative category will be contacted within 4 – 6 weeks of the NVC completing action on their application.  Those whose application is being processed by the Embassy, will not receive an appointment date until the Immigrant Visa Unit has not only completed action on the application, but has also received the results of the medical examination.

In light of these comments I would hazard a guess that we might get an appointment letter in a couple of months with a date a month after that, but it’s hard to know. So we are back to waiting.

So, Bud, how about those instant replays now?

If you thought you’d never see a worse umpiring call than the one Jim Joyce made to rob Armando Galarraga of a perfect game last year, Jerry Meals comprehensively proved you wrong last night.

This might be the worst umpiring call in the history of organised baseball.  If there was a worse one – one that was not made because the umpire was corrupt – I’d like to see it. And this to gift a walkoff run in the 19th inning too – what a way to lose a game. No wonder Clint Hurdle looked like he was going to blow a head gasket.

With the technology available today, on decisions as critical as this and Joyce’s there is no excuse whatsoever for a call this bad to stand unchallenged and uncorrected. If Meals genuinely thought Lugo was safe, he should be immediately removed from the umpire roster. There is no excuse for an error that egregious.

Of course, if Major League Baseball had a commissioner with any decision-making cojones, he would, for the good of the game, give in to the clamour for instant replays on decisions such as this and Joyce’s and cease confining them to home run calls. But as we all know and Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports describes so well here, it does not, it has Bud Selig.

Another item off the list

So, we’re still in the paperwork-gathering stage prior to requesting the Embassy schedule an interview. Obviously we have things like our birth certificates and marriage certificate to hand already. We now have one complete I-864 (in our case, we need two) and Erin is working on the other. I am awaiting with increasing impatience my police clearance certificate for which I sent off my application two weeks ago; I’m beginning to wonder where it is as it’s supposed to take 10 days or so to arrive.

One thing that is out of the way is the medical examination. Yesterday I went for my medical at the Embassy-appointed doctors in London. This involved filling out a question in advance and another when I arrived, a bunch of question about whether I was on any medication or had ever needed to stay overnight in hospital, followed by giving a blood sample, a vision test, checks of my heart, lungs and abdomen and a chest x-ray. I avoided any vaccinations by getting the two required for the visa application last week at my doctor’s. Thanks to the NHS these were free of charge, which saved me the £63 they would have cost if done today, which was very welcome considering the fee for the medical exam was £210.

The results will be sent to the Embassy in the next few days and must be received before an interview is scheduled, but not until I supply a copy of my police certificate, as they now require.e this at the medical. I do not know the reason for this; I assume it’s a very recent change as this is not mentioned in the process steps on the Embassy website.